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Aging Independently at Home is Possible with a Little Preparation




If you want to stay in your home as you grow older, you’re not alone. According to a University of Michigan poll, 88% of adults aged 50-80 say it’s important to stay in their homes as long as possible.


There are many benefits to staying in your home as you grow older (often called “aging in place”). Remaining in a familiar environment may help you feel independent and secure. Additionally, aging in place is generally more affordable than assisted living, nursing homes, or other supportive care facility options. 


Start preparing now for a safe and comfortable future

While you may be healthy and mobile today, your needs will change as you age. So, start making a plan to ensure your home is safe from fall risks and other safety hazards. Many of these recommended changes to your home are fairly inexpensive and easy to do. And, depending on your Medicare coverage, you may be eligible for health plan programs to minimize fall risk in your home.


Start with decluttering

Eliminating clutter in your home is a good first step. Clutter on the floor is especially dangerous. It’s easy to trip over and makes it harder to move around the house, especially if you need a walker or another mobility device. Decluttering will also make it easier to keep your house clean and find misplaced items. Finally, clutter can be a fire hazard. So, take a few hours each week to sort your belongings and decide what you want to keep, discard, gift, or donate.

Prevent falls throughout the house  

Some of the most common safety hazards are right at your feet. A CDC report shows that falls are the most common injuries as we age. To fall-proof your house:

  • Remove any small or unnecessary rugs.
  • Tape down the edges of larger area rugs.
  • Ensure handrails in stairways are secure and sturdy.
  • Add brighter light fixtures throughout the house, especially at the top and bottom of stairs.
  • Repair any loose floorboards or uneven steps.
  • Move any electric cords or cables away from walking paths.
  • Install motion-activated night lights throughout your house.  

Stay safe in the bathroom

The CDC once said the bathroom is the most dangerous place in the home, and slippery bathroom surfaces lead to nearly 300,000 accidents each year. To avoid bathroom mishaps, you may want to:

  • Install non-slip flooring in the bathroom.
  • Replace your standard bathtub with a walk-in tub or shower.
  • Put a non-slip mat and a shower chair in the shower.
  • Install grab bars near the toilet and in the shower.
  • Change bathroom faucets from round handles to levers.
  • Clearly label hot and cold faucets.
  • Install a taller-than-normal “comfort-height” toilet to make getting on and off the toilet easier.
  • Prevent scalding by setting the water heater’s maximum temperature to 120°F or less.

Take care in the kitchen

The kitchen has its share of hazards, such as cuts, burns, and spills, for people of any age. But, according to FEMA, people over the age of 65 have a significantly greater risk of dying from kitchen fires than other age groups. Consider these ideas for keeping the kitchen safe from fires and other hazards:

  • Invest in appliances, such as ovens and coffee makers, with automatic shut-off features.
  • Buy a timer with flashing lights or a loud alarm to alert someone with hearing loss that dinner is ready.
  • Move all of your favorite cooking tools into the cabinets that are easiest to reach.
  • Buy pots with two handles (one on each side) to make them easier to lift.
  • Consider replacing glass dishes with more drop-friendly materials.
  • Be sure there’s a first aid kit and a small fire extinguisher accessible. 
  • Routinely test smoke detectors to ensure they’re in working order.

Don’t forget your outdoor space

Safety modifications don’t stop when you leave the house. Inspect your yard or outdoor areas to see if you need to:

  • Fix trip hazards, such as sidewalk cracks or uneven pavers.
  • Install handrails on both sides of the stairs that lead to your front or back doors.
  • If you might need a wheelchair ramp, figure out where it would fit.
  • Make sure door locks are easy to use.
  • Install a doorbell with a camera to see who’s at the door.
  • Budget for lawn care and snow removal help.

And, while not an option for everyone, some older adults may take on a larger home renovation project to widen doorways for wheelchair access, move bedrooms and bathrooms to the main level, or make utility spaces like laundry more easily accessible. 


If you want to age in place, set yourself up for success

Aging in place requires planning and coordination. You don’t need to do every item on this list, but each project you take on will contribute to your ability to stay independent and in your home.


If you have a chronic condition, such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or diabetes, ask your doctor what additional accommodations you might need in the future.  

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